Gearbox and G2A got into a surprise beef last week when the backlash against the Bulletstorm Full Clip Edition collectors' box, prompted by complaints from YouTuber TotalBiscuit, led the publisher to threaten to kill the deal unless its demands for changes in the way G2A conducts business were immediately met. They were not, leading Gearbox to begin "executing on our extraction process," as the company said in a statement released just ahead of the weekend.
Today, G2A issued a lengthy statement (opens in new tab) of its own, in which it denied the allegations made against it and claimed that it's actually already doing everything that Gearbox called for.
"It all began with a few negative reactions from some YouTubers, and in particular from John 'TotalBiscuit' Bain, to an announcement that G2A.com is working together with Gearbox Publishing. Our partner, Gearbox Publishing, unfortunately decided to publicly publish a letter with a list of ultimatums, without consulting us about the truth of the allegations made by John Bain," G2A wrote. "This is an excellent example that rash actions, without full knowledge of the facts, can be harmful to both the developer and the marketplace. Especially since all of the requests made of G2A.com in the ultimatum have in fact long been part of our marketplace."
Gearbox's first demand was that G2A Shield (opens in new tab), essentially a fraud protection service that's available on a per-purchase or subscription basis, be made free for everyone—something G2A declined to do. All customers have access to full consumer protections, it wrote, initially through the key seller and then, if that goes nowhere, by contacting G2A. The site will then reach out to the seller itself to try to "bring about a satisfactory resolution for both parties," typically within a few hours. G2A Shield simply eliminates the need to go to the reseller first by running everything through its own 24-hour live chat channel: The idea, then, is that you're not paying for protection, but for convenience, which G2A described as "very well-priced given the benefits it offers."
It also denied Gearbox's allegation that it hits buyers with hidden fees, saying that "all fees and rates are clearly and explicitly described in corresponding tables" on the site. Taxes are based on the buyer's country, and fees arising from the method of payment may also be applicable, but they are "independent of G2A.com, and we clearly inform the buyer about them before any purchase is made," it wrote.
But the big "no" has to be its response to the call for a free web service or API that will enable certified developers and publishers to search for and flag fraudulent keys in G2A's database. The legality of the keys it sells is "of the utmost importance," it said, because it refunds—at its own cost—game keys that stop working, even long after they're purchased.
The real issue, it claimed, isn't the trade in fraudulent keys, but that games are being sold through the site at all, out of developers' control and at lower prices than they want, "which is why they accuse us using baseless and unproven allegations."
"The problem is that some developers do not want to accept that people resell their games. The developers would like to control the market and all the sales channels within it, imposing higher prices and prohibiting the resale of unused games. G2A.com does not agree with this—we respect the buyers’ rights, buyers who often unfortunately believe that the rules set forth by developers follow the law," it wrote. "This is why G2A.com will not give developers with whom we have not signed an agreement unlimited access to and the ability to modify our databases. G2A.com has to protect every honest seller, and by giving such access to all developers, we would allow for a situation in which a developer could delete every key on our marketplace regardless of its origin. Such an action would be damaging to the industry, to gamers, and illegal."
By contrast, the G2A Direct (opens in new tab) program it offers requires signed contracts with developers and publishers, making it much more unlikely that they'll do anything untoward. "Therefore, they are the only ones who are able to check our database independently and without limitation," it wrote.
"We respect our critics and believe that they have the good of the industry at heart. Unfortunately, sometimes they do not understand how G2A.com works and as such this misunderstanding causes them to mislead the public about our company," it concluded. "The best proof of this are the four ultimatums formulated in part by John Bain, which, it turns out that were completely unnecessary as all of the issues raised have long been a part of the G2A.com marketplace."
"Most of the allegations levied against us are based on both a lack of knowledge, and a lack of desire to learn the other side of the story. The best example of this is quoting false and defamatory statements while ignoring the facts."
G2A say "nope," then, which isn't entirely surprising. What caught me off guard is the relative bluntness of it all: Instead of PR-friendly promises of ongoing negotiations or upcoming new programs, it's a straight-up "Get bent." I don't know how well that will play with its intended audience, but it's certainly interesting to see G2A draw such an unmistakable line in the sand.
Also interesting is the response to the controversy from Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford on Twitter. He thanked TotalBiscuit for his help and claimed that he'd never heard of G2A until last week; he also emphasized that Gearbox Publishing—a separate and new division of Gearbox Software, headed not by him but by Steve Gibson—is "running that business," and was simply trying to accommodate the wishes of Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly.
@KarlHarker @Totalbiscuit I didn't even know g2a existed before last week. Pub group is running that business. I expect them to learn. They are new at this. Thanks!April 10, 2017
As for the fate of the Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition box that prompted the whole kerfuffle, the statement made no mention of it whatsoever, but the listing on the G2A website is no longer present.
I've reached out to Gearbox for further comment, and will update if I receive a reply. Tangentially related, we've got some thoughts on the Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, "a pricey remaster of a great game," right here.